Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Researching We Will Go

Some weeks it feels like I spend 80% of my time doing research and world building, and only 20% of my time writing the actual book. This is one of the reasons I’m such a firm believer in the “don’t have to write every day” theory. The truth is, without the research or the world building, I can’t write the story. I have characters acting out against white board in my head, and there is no life to them or the scene because I don’t know what’s happening.

This week for instance, I spent a huge amount of time researching street maps and neighborhoods in London, along with an old secret society called The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Since my next few scenes involved a secret society (The Arcane Order of the Black Sun) I had to give myself a crash course in mystical occult societies of the time before I could write about one effectively.

Last week, I got completely sidelined by massive amounts of research into German and British Naval Power at the turn of the century and spent more hours than I care to acknowledge hunting down information on the battleship Dreadnought.

But the beauty of it is that once I’ve got the research and world building firmly in mind, then I can produce pages much faster than if I’d tried to slog through without the research.

Which is why I shoot for weekly goals rather than daily ones. Right now, because the process is so research heavy, I shoot for 25 – 30 pages a week. That will give me time to write plenty of drafts, with lots of resting time in between.

Um, that’s the manuscript that’s resting, not me.

I like to let the story ferment a bit, just like a lump of yeasty bread dough, because when I come back to it, I always find that lovely, interesting things have risen to the surface, which make the revision process it's own special brand of fun.


Barbara Bietz said...


Thanks so much for this post - it came at the perfect time for me! I am in the midst of working on a manuscript that has been haunting me for the last 10 years - and collecting dust for the last 2 years! This week I have jumped back into the research and it is all consuming! I have spent hours reading about Russia in the late 1880's, looking up library catalogues, and e-mailing professors across the country. Sometimes I wonder If maybe I'm getting too caught up in the research so that I don't actually have to write the story. Your post gives me the permission I need to plod along!

Thanks so much,